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Well, I passed. (Passed with minor corrections, to be precise - means I have three months to hand in the revisions, and then they rubberstamp it before a formal ceremony in November. This is the usual outcome category for most.) It wasn’t pleasant and I didn’t enjoy it, as many people suggested I would/should. I’ll set the scene: for those of you not in the UK, vivas here are not public - it’s just generally you, an in-house examiner, and an external examiner. Ostensibly, the external is the “bad guy” and the internal should be a little bit protective since you’re representing the same institution and she/he already knows you a bit. Two hours is a short viva, six hours a long one.

My viva was 5 hours long, starting at 1:30 p.m., so by the time we were done, the heat in the building had gone off and I was shivering. The external examiner was quite kind but fair, I thought. Her field is much closer to mine than the internal guy, and she made the very good point at the beginning of the whole thing that my area of the field is severely under-researched compared to hers. Often, the internal (gonna call him Bob) would be like, “Why didn’t you just look that up?” and the external (gonna call her Jane) would be like “Because no one’s built that experiment yet, Bob.” She did press me quite a bit on the line between hard results and speculative interpretation, and I appreciated her input there; we agreed that the area where I was speculating (which I was!) was more thesis-appropriate than publication-appropriate. I felt I explained my work clearly and defended it well, and I’m proud of how I handled her very good questions. I’m happy with that since I suspect Jane and I will be at a lot of the same conferences as we go along.


Bob, on the other hand, wasn’t so much unfair as... I guess... differently focused? He picked up on some things that were legitimately things, but I felt like he was trying to get something out of my thesis that wasn’t meant to be there, like he was trying to force it to fit into his field. On one hand, I appreciate it because it forces high standards on me and I will definitely learn more by making the changes he suggests. On the other hand, I suppose I’m a little bit salty because he has historically always made me feel seriously dumb (he did this time as well), he has zero emotional showing so he’s stressful to speak with, he typically leaves me with a giant migraine, he’s always been more critical than helpful in the scope of academics, and his lab (where I’ve done some work) has always made me feel very unwelcome because of the way he runs it. So I guess I feel that he’s not a bad guy, and I am glad for his input, but I don’t like being around him or being involved with him because it makes me feel bad. Unsurprisingly, he turned out to be the bad cop! He also let me leave the viva without giving away that I wasn’t failing it, which kind of pissed off my supervisor (or so I’m told by his girlfriend).

But hey. It’s done. Now for revisions and the rest of my life. Whew.

ETA that herr honk has started calling me “Dr Smartarse,” because he’s very very creative.

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